Healthy breast tissue has been grown in-lab for researchers to analyze how breast cancer evolves and how it aggressively invades healthy tissue cells.
Making use of tissue discarded during reconstructive breast surgeries, a group of German researchers looked curated the cells in a petri dish and grew artificial breast tissue. The purpose of their experiment is to understand how breast tissue develops and how aggressive cancer cells invade it in order to deploy increasingly efficient treatments in the future.
The paper comprising the findings of the research was published in the the journal Development.
What the researchers looked at mainly was how mammary glands and breast tissue are constantly growing and renewing throughout puberty and motherhood in order to ensure milk production.
From the collected breast tissue resulted from previous surgeries the researchers collected healthy tissue which was then placed in a soft transparent gel that keep the cells together and offers a nutritious environment for them to grow. Due to the previously tested characteristics of the gel, the mammary glands were formed in no time.
They represented the basis on which the scientific team conducted the research. Of the cells used for the creation of the mammary glands, the scientists wrote that only about one in 2000 cells is a stem cell.
Stem cells are the cells that drive the renewal of the mammary glands. So, in the laboratory controlled environment, scientists managed to increase the number of stem cells five times to create the support structure for the breast. The cell groupings were also grown into producing milk.
It stood out clearly that from the entire structure developed from one stem cell closely controlled in the petri dish. This prompted the question whether under normal conditions of breast tissue growth, which happens at accelerated rates, there is a loss of control that allows cancer cells to initiate their aggressive invasion.
The same process was reproduced in a more rigid environment than that of the transparent gel. Here, the cells showed a more aggressive growth, as well as a behavior similar to that of cancer cells. Possibly this indicates why women that present a denser breast tissue also present higher rates of breast cancer diagnosis.
The laboratory created models will allow future studies to focus on how breast tissue develops under normal conditions in contrast to what triggers the tissue to develop tumors.
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